Sunday, May 29, 2011

More Iris Murdoch!

Before starting this project, I had no idea who Iris Murdoch was and had never read anything by her. The Black Prince is now the second book of hers that I have read (the other one was The Bell.) I like her books because they are a good story, but also can be thought provoking. I think I liked The Black Prince a little bit less than The Bell, just because the story wasn't as interesting to me. But it definitely made me think, and I did like it.

The Black Prince is a story about a middle-aged writer who finds his attempts to write thwarted by various things that happen to his friends and family members. Then, after that, he finds himself falling in love with the very young daughter of a friend of his. But what I thought was really cool about this book is that after the guy finishes his story, there are 4 epilogues by other characters that kind of cast doubt on the events as the narrator has told them. It was a neat way to make you think about the story. (That whole idea of the truthful narrator.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Peanut has become quite a little negotiator lately. Her chief techniques are the urgent tone of voice and the word NOW.

Peanut: Want some O's.
Me: Sure. Why don't you finish the O's in your bowl, then you can have some more.
Peanut: Want some more O's NOW.
Me: Yeah, sure, OK. (getting up)

The characters in The Birds Fall Down are dealing with issues much more important (you know, the socialist revolution in Russia). But their style of getting things done is sort of just as basic. Lots of terrorism, lots of spying, basically lots of intrigue. Rather than trying to convince the world what they want, they try to beat the world over the head with it through terrorism.

The Birds Fall Down is the story of an 18 year old girl who gets caught up in a situation where her exiled Russian grandfather has unknowingly been employing a double agent. Worse yet, that double agent might have the hots for her. The book started off really slowly but then toward the middle it became very exciting. I especially was interested in what it said on the book jacket that the book is actually based on something that happened in real life (catching this one particular double spy) that helped pave the way for Lenin's rise to power. Pretty cool.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I don't usually like war books.

Before I started reading all these books, I definitely had preconceived notions about war books. I thought they were all dry and boring and full of death. All Quiet on the Western Front and now, Birdsong, have totally changed my mind. Yes, there is a lot of death and sadness. But the characters are interesting and human and I came away feeling like I learned something. World War I was really a tough, difficult war and it is hard to believe it took place just 100 years ago. I can't believe there were whole groups of men devoted to digging out tunnels under the ground!

I'm surprised I hadn't ever heard of Birdsong before. Since it was published relatively recently it seems like I would have some across it at some point, but nope.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Books 81-90

Here are the next 10 books on the list. Happy May!

81. The Bitter Glass by Ellis Dillon (1958)
82. Black Dogs by Ian McEwan (1992)
83. The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch (1973)
84. Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
85. The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy (1987)
86. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (1853)
87. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2000)
88. Blind Man with a Pistol by Chester Himes (1969)
89. Blindness by Henry Green (1926)
90. The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1852)

Some good authors on here. I have really liked the Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood and Iris Murdoch books I have read. To say nothing of Charles Dickens, who I struggled with when reading assignments for school - maybe now I have matured enough to enjoy more!

Can't stay in Yorkshire, can't get out of Yorkshire.

What I liked most about Billy Liar, by Keith Waterhouse, is that I think there is a little bit of Billy in lots of us. Billy has a hard time making any decisions, overthinks everything, lives a rich fantasy life because his ordinary life is not so interesting, and struggles when the half-truths he tells people come back and get him. He wants desperately to move to London to pursue his writing hopes but can't bring himself to take the measures necessary to do so.

I didn't think I was going to like this book as much as I did, but I did. I kind of felt bad for Billy that he couldn't quite figure out how to make his life go the way he wanted it to, but it was entertaining.